February 19, 2009

Worth the Points: XBox Live Arcade Community Games

I was hard at work on the Flash version of Filler 2 when the XBox Live Community Games initiative launched, so I didn’t have time to get the XBox version out as a launch title. I was very impressed by the whole idea, but I found Microsoft’s game store to be less then helpful in finding out which games were good and which games were crap. For the regular Arcade titles, there’s an expectation of quality. If it’s a type of game you’d normally be interested in, they’re at least worth a demo download to give them a shot. There’s no expectation of quality on the community games (at least, not yet), so I found myself downloading crap demo after crap demo and thinking there must be a better way. I’d heard about CommunityEngine, which was more blog oriented and less “purely” social than something like Insoshi–and the license was a heck of a lot more favorable. I also had no experience with Amazon EC2, which was something I wanted to fix. A community games review site seemed like a perfect opportunity to test both out, so I went for it.

Without further adieu (or just click the banner above), feel free to check out Worth the Points: XBox Live Arcade Community Game Reviews. The site’s actually been “live” since around Christmas time. I’ve been slowly funneling traffic (both through a test of the MochiAds self-serve ads and from the ads in front of the original Filler, which is still being played ~10k times a day) towards it to make sure it didn’t break and fixing bugs as I spot them, but I think most of the major kinks have been worked out. We play a lot of games in my house, so I figured it was our civic responsibility to wade through the mountain of crap and try to find a few gems–and there are definitely some out there.

A lot of my crazy side projects don’t make it this far, but I saw this one as a good excuse to get some friends involved on something, so my twin brother, an old high school friend, and my roommate are all “featured writers” for the site (for the time beings). I once thought I’d open it up so anyone could write community game reviews (after all, there are more games being released than we can even keep up with)–but ultimately decided a tighter focus on just the four of us would work better in the long run.

There are already sixteen reviews posted, and I’ll try to prod everyone to do one or two a week. You can go directly to the games which got the thumbs up or which games didn’t make the cut, browse games by overall rating (users can rate games from 0-10), genre, or tags. Hopefully giving credit where credit is due (or at least finding a few games that don’t totally suck) will help legitimize the community games as a viable platform.